Friday, July 29, 2011

A paean to the New York Times in a New York Magazine cover story; missing is any recognition how the Times fails to cover Brooklyn (and AY)

Seth Mnookin's New York magazine cover story this week is headlined The Kingdom and the Paywall: Some people thought that on Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s watch, the New York Times could actually become extinct. They might need to issue a correction.

According to the article, thanks to the new paywall that gets readers to pay for online access, new hires, and a commitment to international reporting, the Times has stood out in a shaky newspaper landscape, and turned the corner on its finances.

And all is well. Mnookin concludes:
As a profession, journalism of the kind the Times practices can be dangerous. And as a business, in a metaphorical sense, more so... The current Sulzberger’s bets have at times seemed the most outlandish, as if he’s willfully refused to read the writing on the wall. But for the Sulzbergers, whatever their faults, even when the paper was making money, it has always been a calling rather than a business.
Missing: a New York focus and Brooklyn scrutiny

Maybe the paper is a calling, but, as Mnookin observes, Sulzberger transformed "the Times from a regional paper with national scope to a national paper that happened to be headquartered in the Northeast."

The article could have gone further to analyze how coverage of New York has been diminished.

Now the Times gives tougher scrutiny to Baghdad than to Brooklyn.

I'm not saying the Times doesn't publish Brooklyn feature, trend, and real estate stories. I'm saying their Brooklyn bureau is far smaller than their Baghdad bureau. And there's no priority on continuity and institutional memory.

And that leads to Atlantic Yards coverage (by a newbie to AY coverage) like the article I dissected 7/19/11, featuring lousy reasoning (why is it Atlantic Yards "opponents" are the only ones asked about the public interest?), basic factual errors (no, Sen. Chuck Schumer's promised 10,000 jobs had nothing to do with construction), and perfunctory wave at a complex controversy (Forest City Ratner's questionable use of the EB-5 program for immigrant investors).

Shouldn't the Times do a better job?

And isn't there another reason: Shouldn't the Times, given the parent company's business relationship with Forest City Ratner, in building the Times Tower, be exacting in its scrutiny of the developer?

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